Club History

By Grant Woodman, Club President & Founder Member

I was a member of Westborough Sports Centre where I did circuit training and Five-a-Side Football. I saw an advert for ``jogging and Beyond” for a 16 week training program designed for the first Maidstone Marathon in 1983. This was on a Monday night at 8pm. It was organised by Alan Saker, Peter Mullervy, Tom Joyce (sadly he is no longer with us) they were all members of Elliots AC. I went to the club nights with my friend Nick Green, there were about 15-20 runners and we ran about 6 miles and were given a program to work to each Monday. We did a few races leading up to the Marathon, one was the Rochester Half Marathon which I completed in 1hr 25mins.

There was also a seminar at the Hazlitt Theatre to promote the race. Mike Gratton a local athlete from Canterbury was the guest speaker. He went on to win the London Marthon that year in 2hrs9mins. The Maidstone Marathon had 1983 entries, the same number as the year it was held. We all entered the race calling ourselves the Maidstone Harriers. Much to the coaches surprise I was the first runner to finish in 2hrs53mins. As any of you who have run the course know, it was very undulating. The full marathon ran for 11 years and I managed to complete all of them. By the time the last race was put on in 1993 the club were organising it, unfortunately there were only 80 finishers so we decided to call it a day and concentrate on the Maidstone Half Marathon and 10K.

To celebrate our first marathon we had a night out and Peter Mullervy was willing to carry on meeting on Monday nights for a run. We did this for the next few years, finishing up at The Admiral Gordon for a drink afterwards, until they kicked us out! Gradually more runners joined us including Janice Oakley, later Moorekite. She was very enthusiastic and organised and we were not used to that. We then branched out met on a Sunday at my house at Boughton Monchelsea for cross country along the Green Sands Way. One lap 8.5miles, 2-laps 17-miles. They were great times, we spent many a day making
signs for the runs and cutting back hedges and stinging nettles so we could run the footpaths during the growing season.

Janice suggested we should become an affiliated club and this took place in 1985 in my front room and our committee was formed with Janice as secretary and Nick Green as Treasurer, the other members being myself, Richard Thompson and Austen Donlevy. I feel privileged to have been involved in founding the club, I have made many friends over the years and am honoured to be President.

There was a time when Athletics went through a fallow period and various clubs around the UK combined so that they could still take part in good quality competitions. The original Maidstone Harriers merged with City of Rochester AC then, and became Medway AC. The main track training focus was centred at Brompton in the Medway Towns, as well as later at Deangate. There was a small road training group in Maidstone but they normally met at someone's house such, as Job Mayatt's or Richard Hayman's. Mote Park was the venue for cross country events and the Armstrong Road building was used for changing. As Maidstone Hockey Club were getting much more use out of the building than Medway AC it made sense for Medway AC to relinquish their involvement for what was just the occasional use.

I have as you see been with the club a long time and am very enthusiastic about it. We are always looking for ``new blood``, Dave and I can't go on forever. Don't forget it is every members club and it is a great club.

CLUB PHOTO -1997

From the archives - by Michael Murdoch

1986

The following article is the first in a series looking back at old races and events involving Maidstone Harriers. This article reviews a couple of half marathons held 25 years ago, when the Harriers were a relatively new club. Future articles will alternate between 10 and 20 years ago. When you look back at old race reports and results it is interesting to see the times achieved by Harriers, and many of them are still members of the club today.

25 years ago was a different era. There were no technical fabrics (everyone wore cotton T-shirts), running gear was not fashionable, and big companies like Adidas and Reebok did not make running shoes or clothing. The only brands for clothing were companies like Sub4, Fastrax, Viga, Ron Hill and Saucony, and their range of clothing was basically shorts, vests and tracksuits. In Maidstone the place to buy running shoes was CSL Sports, a little shop inside Notcutts garden centre. For an energy drink you would have sugary orange squash, and if you wanted to turn it into an isotonic drink you just added a pinch of table salt. I hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane.

In September 1986 I completed my first half marathon, the North Kent Half Marathon. It consisted of two 5 mile laps and one 3 mile lap round Gravesend town centre. It was not the most interesting course I’ve ever done! In those days I did not have proper running shoes, I just wore a pair of football trainers called Adidas Kick. Most men in their 40’s will remember Adidas Kick because in the 1980’s, most of us had a pair. They were good for kicking a ball round the park or playground, but not great for running half marathons. I had no idea that this race was going to be the start of a long-term hobby and I had no thoughts of joining a club. I didn’t even bother to get a copy of the results – unfortunately this means I do not know if any Harriers were in this race. I recorded my finishing time as 1:42:36.

A month later, I completed my second half marathon and this time I had proper running shoes (Nike Steve Cram Windrunner) and I paid the extra fee to get a photocopy of the results. 351 runners completed the Sevenoaks Half Marathon in October 1986, of whom 101 finished under 1 hr 30 min (28%). This is a very high percentage compared to modern races. Equally remarkable is that only 20 runners took longer than 2 hours to finish, an extremely low percentage (5%). By comparison, at the Thanet Half Marathon in 2011, only 4% of the runners finished under 1 hr 30 min and 50% took more than 2 hours.

The 1st Male (Tonbridge AC) finished in a time of 1.08.50 and the 1st Lady (Sevenoaks AC) finished in a time of 1.23.08.

Only two Maidstone Harriers took part in the race, Austin Donleavy (1.23.18) and Richard Thompson (1.32.53). Austin and Richard were prominent members of the club in the early years and Austin was club chairman in 1991-92.

Completing the race as unattached runners were David Hattersley (1.37.05) and Mike Murdoch (1.37.54). Steve Wing also appears on the results list as a member of the Allhallows Harriers, with a finishing time of 1.55.34.

Apart from seeing old club names such as Allhallows Harriers and Swanley Village Striders on the results, it is also interesting to note that many runners belonged to company athletics teams. These included British Airways, British Caledonian, GEC Avionics, Met Police, Kent Police, London Fire Brigade, Kent Fire Brigade, Prison Service and the RAF. Apart from the police and fire brigade, you rarely see company teams at races these days.

One final piece of trivia. Instead of a medal at the end, we received a sew-on badge. This was the only time I received a sew-on badge as a prize.


1991

For this “trip down memory lane” I have selected two half marathons from 20 years ago, one that no longer exists and one that is now held on a completely different course.

RAINHAM HALF MARATHON – 16th June 1991

During the 1980’s and 1990’s the Medway Towns hosted two popular half marathons - the Rainham Half and the Hempstead Valley Half. The Rainham Half started and finished at the Featherby Road Junior School in Twydall, and was organised by the school PTA. The Hempstead Valley race started and finished at the shopping centre, and was organised by Gillingham Borough Council. Nowadays most road races are organised by running clubs or charities.

The Rainham Half began by heading out along Beechings Way and up Bloors Lane (this is where “Splashes” is now) to the junction with the A2. Runners had to use a footbridge to cross over the A2 then follow some roads through Wigmore heading towards Bredhurst. The first third of the course was mostly a gentle incline. Just before entering Bredhurst the course took a left turn and headed towards Farthing Corner (or Medway Services as its called now), and then a right turn to go past Queendown Warren and Hartlip village. This part of the course was very picturesque and it was also fast as it was mainly downhill back to the A2. The final third of the race involved running along the A2 back into Rainham, along the High Street and past the Manor Farm, and over the footbridge to Twydall. Some years we completed the distance by running along Beechings Way (the first mile in reverse), other years we carried along the A2 (straight over Bowaters Roundabout, where Tesco is now) and down Featherby Road to the finish. 20 years ago we had no Sunday shopping so there was little traffic on the roads, even on the A2.
In the 1991 race there were 270 finishers, of whom 62 finished under 1.30 (23%) and 228 finished under 2 hours (84%). The 1st man finished in a time of 1.11.16 and the 1st lady finished in a time of 1.22.18.
David Hattersley was the 1st Maidstone Harrier in 1.27.56. Nine other harriers completed the race including Mike Murdoch (1.32.06), Floyd Risby (1.37.13) and Kay Risby (1.52.52).
Also completing the race as unattached runners were Andrew Burgess (1.58.06) and John Cosgrove (1.29.22). Andrew and John both joined the harriers soon afterwards and John became one of the fastest men in the club’s history.

The Rainham Half, the Hempstead Valley Half, and the Gillingham 10K were the 3 races that made up the Kent Reliance Road Race Series. Sadly none of these races exist today. In 1991 four Maidstone Harriers finished in the series Top 50 – Mick Brown (16th), Floyd Risby (26th), Julie Danch (36th, 5th female) and Kay Risby (48th, 6th female).

MAIDSTONE HALF MARATHON – 8th September 1991

In 1991 our half marathon started and finished in Mote Park, near the Cheshire Home. The course went up through Shepway and along the Sutton Road to Langley, before heading downhill through Langley and Leeds and back to Mote Park via the A20 and Bearstead.

The 1991 race was sponsored by CSL Sports, a small sports shop based at Newnham Court, later to be taken over by Sweatshop. Many of the older club members will remember buying their first pair of running shoes at CSL.

In the 1991 race we had a huge field of 750 runners, of whom 141 finished under 1.30 (19%) and 615 finished under 2 hours (82%).

The quality of the field was exceptional, with Geoff Wightman winning in 1.05.35, Barry Royden 2nd in 1.06.52 and London Marathon winner Mike Gratton finishing 3rd in 1.07.00. The first Harrier home was 5th-placed David Davies in a fantastic time of 1.10.30. The 1st Lady was Janice Oakley (Janice Moorekite) of Maidstone Harriers in a superb time of 1.23.27.

23 Maidstone Harriers finished the race, with 3 of the men finishing under 1.20 (David Davies plus Bill Murphy and Peter Foxall) and another 7 harriers finishing under 1.25 (David Simpson, Trevor Stewart, David Thornby, Barry Neaves, Kevin Burt, Janice Oakley and Fred Streetfield) and 2 more finishing under 1.30 (Mike Murdoch and Peter Smith). {Mike M – My 1.27.15 was a PB and it was my PB for the next 10 years!}

Also completing the race as an unattached runner was Andrew Burgess (1.52.10). David Northcroft was a sprightly M50 at the time (he is now a sprightly M70) and finished in 1.36.37, representing Tonbridge AC.
The Maidstone Ladies won the 1st Team prize, with the team consisting of Janice Oakley, Linda Jerrams and Christa Smy, and the Men won the 3rd Team prize with a team consisting of David Davies, Bill Murphy and Peter Foxall.

FOOTNOTE

It is interesting to compare statistics of the present with the past. Here are the stats for 3 half marathons in 2011:

Tunbridge Wells : 1974 finishers, 159 under 1.30 (8%), 1276 under 2 hrs (65%).
Dartford : 693 finishers, 59 under 1.30 (8.5%), 464 under 2 hrs (67%).
Thanet : 249 finishers, 10 under 1.30 (4%), 127 under 2 hrs (51%).

Here are the stats for two half marathons in 1991:

Rainham : 270 finishers, 62 under 1.30 (23%), 228 under 2 hours (84%).
Maidstone : 750 finishers, 141 under 1.30 (19%), 615 under 2 hours (82%).


2001

For this “trip down memory lane” I have included a review of races and events held 10 years ago. The club has many members who have been members for more than 10 years, as the reports show.

HARRIERS SNIPPETS

David Hattersley was elected as club chairman, replacing Sue Shardlow who was giving up due to injury. David continued in this role for the next 9 years.

The saddest event of the year was that Dennis Willcox died after a lengthy illness. Dennis was one of the club’s “characters” who was always making people laugh. He used to run on a Wednesday night with a group of slower runners known as “the back pack”. One of the trophies awarded at the presentation evening each year is named after him. In a short space of time the club had lost 3 popular members, as Tom Moore and Herb Krause had died 2 years before Dennis.

In 2001 a new Harriers website was created by Paul Holland, who has now served for 10 years as our webmaster.

The club champions for 2001 were Sharon Hawkins, David McInulty (Senior Men) and Ron Carr (Male Vets).

10K RACES – QUEST, TED PEPPER and RED LION

The Givauden Ashford 10K has been on the calendar for many years, but back in 2001 it was called the Quest 10K. (And going back further in time it was called the Julie Rose 10K, starting and finishing at the Stour Sports Centre in the town centre). In 2001 the race made the newspaper headlines when a young runner named Charlotte Dale finished in 33.21, one of the fastest times ever recorded in the UK by a 17 year old female. This was more than 5 minutes ahead of the next lady. Kim Howes (now with Larkfield AC) was the 6th lady and first female Harrier in 41.22 followed by Paula Stockton in 44.34. A large field of 610 runners took part in the race and five Harriers finished under 40 minutes – David Davies (34.37), Peter Harris (35.56), David Law (36.09), David Thornby (37.05) and David Gray (39.48) - followed by Mike Murdoch, Ron Carr, Martyn Earl, David Hattersley and David Northcroft who all finished under 44 minutes.

Twelve Harriers completed the Ted Pepper 10K in Herne Bay. Once again five Harriers finished under 40 minutes, this time they were Peter Harris (35.27), David Law (37.20), Mike Stacey (37.46), Ron Carr (39.26) and Kevin Burt (39.42). The leading ladies were Kim Howes (42.32) and Paula Stockton (43.13). Just a few seconds behind Paula were David Northcroft (43.26) and David Hattersley (43.32).
In recent years the Red Lion 10K has been replaced by the Mount Ephraim 10K which is on much of the same course. (The Red Lion pub is worth visiting, in summer or winter). David Davies (35.40) and Mike Stacey (38.53) were the only Harriers who finished under 40 minutes. Mike Murdoch, Ron Carr, Grant Woodman and Lyndon Gurr all finished in 41 minutes and so many seconds. Sharon Hawkins (42.02) and Kim Howes (43.49) were next, followed by David Hattersley and David Northcroft. John Brown finished in 49.36, an excellent time for a man in his 60’s. Julie Wing (1.08.49) and Steve Wing (1.21.11) also completed the course.

10 MILE RACES - DARTFORD, CANTERBURY and THANET

The Harriers performed very well in all three races. At Dartford we had 5 men in the top 50 – David Law, Mike Stacey, Kevin Burt, Ron Carr and Mike Murdoch. David Law was under 1 hour in 58.34 and Mike Stacey was just outside in 1.00.43.

One week later at Canterbury we had an even better result. The quality of runners in this race was exceptional, with 29 runners finishing under an hour including two Harriers – David Davies (57.47) and Mike Stacey (59.46). They were closely followed by David Law (1.00.21), Peter Harris (1.00.38) and Bill Murphy (1.02.34), but they were all miles behind the leaders, Barry Royden and Mike Coleman of Medway AC, who finished in 50.47 and 50.57 respectively. The ladies race was equally competitive with Andrea Green (GB Athlete and national half marathon champion) finishing in 55.41, a full 6 minutes ahead of 2nd placed lady Tina Oldershaw. Leading female Harriers were Paula Stockton (1.10.30) and Sharon Hawkins (1.12.40). Other Harriers who completed this race include Mike Murdoch, Ron Carr, Lyndon Gurr, Grant Woodman, Paul Holland (all under 68 minutes), and David Northcroft, Floyd Risby and David Hattersley.

The final 10 mile race of the year was at Thanet, where 3 Harriers finished in the top 7, all under an hour. David Davies was 3rd in 57.40, Mike Stacey was 4th in 58.38, and David Law was 7th in 59.19. Sharon Hawkins was first female Harrier in a time of 1.09.27, breaking through the 70 minute barrier for the first time. Most of the club members who completed the Canterbury 10 earlier in the year also ran at Thanet, other members who ran include David Moore, Andrew Tate, Rob Bright, Andrew Burgess, Julie Wing and Steve Wing.

HALF MARATHONS – TUNBRIDGE WELLS, HEMPSTEAD VALLEY and MAIDSTONE

Almost 900 runners completed the Tunbridge Wells Half in February. A Sevenoaks AC runner won the race in a fast time of 1.11.26, whilst Andrea Green of Dartford Harriers won the ladies race in 1.15.36. As mentioned earlier, Andrea was the national half marathon champion. The Harriers had 3 men in the first 25, namely Peter Harris (1.18.29), David Law (1.20.49) and Hitesh Mistry (1.20.59). Hitesh was with the club for one season before joining Reigate Priory AC. Another 6 Harriers finished under 1.30, in order they are David Thornby (1.21.55), Bill Murphy, Ron Carr (1.26.23), Lyndon Gurr (1.26.39), Mike Murdoch (1.26.53) and David Gray. The ladies team was led by Sharon Hawkins (1.33.34) and Paula Stockton (1.34.16), with Julie Wing further back in 2.29.02. Other Harriers to complete the course include Paul Holland, Martyn Earl, David Northcroft, David Hattersley, and Andrew Burgess.

A much smaller entry of 202 runners took part in the Hempstead Valley Half, which was in its 20th year. Mike Murdoch (1.27.25) and Sharon Hawkins (1.33.48) were the first Harriers home, with Rob Bright, Andrew Tate and Julie Wing also taking part. The ladies race was won by GB Athlete Debbie Percival in 1.17.23, and the men’s race was won for the 14th year in a row by Barry Royden of Medway AC.

A team consisting of Sharon Hawkins, Julie Stoppani and Jane Bright won the team prize in the Maidstone Half. Sharon was 2nd lady. In 2001 the race started and finished in Oakwood Park.

The Paddock Wood half marathon was cancelled in 2001 due to foot and mouth disease.

HARRIERS’ SUMMER RUNS

In addition to our Wednesday night club runs, we also had a busy programme of 6 summer runs held on a Tuesday or Thursday. The “Hunton Handicap” on a challenging multi-terrain course was won by Peter Seadon-Jones and Kay Risby. Peter no longer runs with us but occasionally turns up at social events, including being the quizmaster at quiz nights. The “Bredhurst Relays” were won by a team consisting of Floyd Risby, Mike Murdoch and Andrew Tate. A Treasure Hunt in the Grove Green/Downswood/Otham area was won by a team consisting of Paul Holland, Mike Murdoch, David Hattersley and Lyndon Gurr. A “One Hour Run” was held in Oakwood Park, where the object was to run as far as you could in 1 hour. For an event like this the results record the distance you ran in a fixed time, rather than the time you took to complete a fixed distance. Paula Stockton won the ladies race, covering 8183 metres, and David Law won the mens race covering 9163 metres. The other two events were a 10K held in Mote Park, won by David Law and guest runner Sue James, and a 5 mile handicap also held in Mote Park.

BROADSTAIRS HARBOUR WALL BANGER – 7km Beach Run

4 Harriers took part in this race, which is organised each year by the Marine Officers’ Society of Thanet. The race is run on the beach at low tide from Broadstairs to Ramsgate and back. This is a good fun event and highly recommended. One of the interesting features of this race is that you have to nominate your teams before the race, its not a case of first 3 to finish. A Harriers team consisting of Mike Stacey (2nd), Mike Murdoch (10th) and Sandra Stacey (96th) came 3rd and received nice trophies. John Brown finished in 57th place out of 105.

Other Events

16 Harriers enjoyed a trip to France to take part in the Le Touquet 10K. The trip was organised by David Northcroft. David Davies was first Harrier in 35.14 followed by David Thornby in 39.59. Jane Bright was first lady.